If you’ve lost a loved one because of someone else’s carelessness due to a motor vehicle accident, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is bringing a lawsuit.
However, you are also probably facing steep and unexpected expenses. The purpose of a wrongful death settlement is to compensate someone’s family members for their past and future monetary expenses caused by the incident, as well as anguish and suffering. The settlement money can lift the financial burden from your shoulders while you are dealing with your grief.
You may be wondering how much financial recovery is possible from a wrongful death settlement. Unfortunately, there is no way to accurately compute average wrongful death settlement amounts in Texas.
Every settlement for a wrongful death depends on the facts of the case, and each case is unique. Important factors include the severity of the injuries, the defendant’s insurance coverage, the person’s age, and other facts of the accident.
What Financial Recovery Is Possible in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Compensatory damages can be economic or non-economic. Economic damages compensate actual monetary losses, like:
- Lost earning ability and missed wages,
- Medical bills,
- Value of services lost (for example, childcare and house maintenance), and
- Funeral and burial expenses.
Non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate. They include loss of companionship and support, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Generally, a jury decides the amount of non-economic damages.
Exemplary damages, also known as punitive damages, are less frequently awarded. A jury can award punitive damages where the defendant’s conduct was especially egregious.
If you are tempted to use a wrongful death settlement calculator to figure out your damages, you should reconsider. These calculators cannot account for the specific circumstances of your case. For example, they cannot gauge the degree of the defendant’s negligence. Your attorney will be able to provide you with a better understanding of your possible settlement.
Who Can Bring Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Texas?
Someone may bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas when they have lost an immediate family member because of someone’s negligent or wrongful act. Immediate family members are a child, parent, or spouse. The spouse must prove a legal marriage or valid common-law marriage to be eligible. If none of those people file within three months, the estate executor or administrator can file the claim.
Not all family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Excluded parties include long-term partners, stepchildren, biological parents without parental rights, and legally adopted children where their biological parent was the victim. Fathers of unborn children must prove paternity, and they cannot sue the mother.
How Is a Wrongful Death Settlement Divided?
The victim’s last will and testament generally determines how a wrongful death settlement will be divided. If the victim did not have a will, the settlement goes through the probate process. Your attorney can also help surviving family members in these circumstances work out a division of the wrongful death settlement acceptable to all parties based on their respective losses.
For example, consider a case where the victim had minor children and grown adult children from two different marriages, and all these children were equal beneficiaries. The court would most likely appoint a guardian ad litem (that is, a person the court appoints to look after someone during a case) to represent the minors’ interests. The guardian ad litem could argue that the minor children should be awarded a greater amount of the settlement because they have lost the economic support of their parent’s wages and the non-economic benefit of their parenting.
Such an agreement is made into a contract between the parties. An attorney plays a crucial role in situations such as these—where the beneficiaries are not so obvious or if there is a lot of personal issues between the parties.
What Else Should I Know About Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
The person’s family member only has two years from the date of the victim’s death to begin a wrongful death claim. However, it is important to contact a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after a loved one’s wrongful death because they will need time to conduct an investigation and put the claim together. Furthermore, as time passes, critical evidence can be damaged or lost.
It is important that you do not speak to the insurance companies. The insurance companies will aggressively defend the lawsuits. You must remember that they are businesses interested in making money, so they certainly do not want to pay you any more money than they absolutely have to. They will fight to keep the settlement you might receive as low as possible. Your attorney will deal with the insurance company on your behalf.
Examples of Wrongful Death Settlements
The Francis Firm has successfully negotiated multiple wrongful death settlements on behalf of our clients.
A young man died from his injuries after his tanker truck exploded while he was on a job site. Our firm negotiated a $2,250,000 settlement from the site operator and trucking company for the victim’s family.
A good Samaritan assisting car accident victims was accidentally struck by the police officer responding to the scene. The man, unfortunately, died from his injuries. The family sued the city and the motorist’s insurance company. The settlement was subject to statutory limits for municipal claims and the underinsured motorist insurance policies. We recovered the maximum settlement amount of $600,000 for the victim’s family.
You can read about more of our results here.
The Francis Firm Has the Advocates You Need
Nobody wants to think about finances when they are grieving the loss of their loved one. The hard reality is that the person’s family might be looking at steep costs for a funeral and medical bills. A wrongful death settlement won’t bring your loved one back or lessen the pain, but it might at least take care of some of your financial worries.
The Francis Firm can evaluate your case, explain your best options, and help you maximize your financial recovery. Your attorney will take on the burden of the lawsuit and will be your legal advocate. Please contact us to speak with one of our attorneys about your case.